NNT – Number Needed to Treat

TIME magazine this week has an article on what it calls “medicine’s secret stat,” NNT or number needed to treat. The magazine uses the example of a study that might show that statin drugs lower the risk of heart attacks by 30%. “But that number is meaningless unless you take into account the percentage of […]


Nonstop hiccup girl harassed by nonstop media pressure

You may have heard about the 15-year old Florida girl who started hiccuping a month ago and hasn’t stopped. If you watch the network morning shows, your chances of knowing about her are better. What you may not know is the level of harassment applied to book guests like her. The St. Petersburg Times reports: […]


PBS ombudsman thinks Glaxo sponsorship isn't worth it

Broadcasting & Cable magazine reports: “The sponsorship of a PBS program on obesity by diet drug maker GlaxoSmithKline has one veteran noncom TV watcher a bit exercised, but PBS says it is by the book. Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, and a frequent critic of what he sees as the […]


More NBC News cheerleading rather than reporting health news

Last week it was NBC’s hype of a drug for restless leg syndrome. This week it was NBC using some of its airtime to promote a new “laser hair comb” for baldness. You figure a network newscast has about 22 minutes for real news. It chose to give a chunk of that time to this. […]


Long-distance autopsy of Anna Nicole

Much of the coverage of the death of Anna Nicole Smith represented another low point in journalism. CNN, which has billed itself as “the world’s most important network,â€? asked its senior medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, to comment on the death. Wolf Blitzer introduced Gupta, saying, “Talk a little bit about what we know. A […]


TV sweeps period produces health news panic

A San Antonio Express-News columnist reminds us that we’re in the middle of the February TV ratings or sweeps period. And she laments the hype, including that of health news. Excerpt: “Oh no, I woke with a headache. Boy, do I feel tired! Does that mean I’m at risk for a stroke? I moved around […]


Canadian paper bites on pharma-funded advocacy

A Vancouver Sun story is a good example of an imbalanced story that fails to address health policy issues with context and completeness. The story reports on an advocacy group report and, in so doing, takes a flawed advocacy stance itself. The story begins: “Cancer patients are increasingly having to pay for important new drugs […]

10 2/5/2007

Restless viewers over NBC restless leg "story"

NBC News anchor Brian Williams delivered an awkward and unusual story lead-in last Wednesday, one which has touched off a firestorm of criticism of him even on his own blog. Williams said, on the air: “If you watch this newscast with any frequency, then you’ve seen it – this ad playing behind me here on […]


CNN's "House Call" Makes Some Bad Calls

You get a half hour on an international news network to report on health news and you use it to: 1. Tell people if you want to avoid the flu, “try to avoid getting too close to sick people.” 2. Feature a doctor who lost 70 pounds by using lots of hot sauce, even though […]


Too Brief To Matter

It doesn’t take one thousand words to write an excellent story.  We’ve given our top five-star scores to some stories that used only 500 or so words.  One recent example:  “Less acid, brittler hips? Some heartburn drugs may be behind an increase in fractures,” 566-word story by Los Angeles Times.  But stories in the 100-300 […]


Tips & Resources for Analyzing Health Care Claims

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